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Sentiment Overview: Week Of April 24th, 2009 at Trader’s Narrative

Here is a concise summary of this week’s sentiment data:

Sentiment Surveys
For weeks now I’ve been pointing out that the really interesting scenario would be if we saw the market rally while bullish sentiment decreased (or inversely bearish sentiment increased). That is what contrarians look for because it signals that people are not really believers in the rally. This is a tricky concept because while a prolonged bull market requires wholesale participation by buyers, it is frustratingly difficult to recover from a bear market if everyone thinks that every single blip is the start of a full blown recovery.

ChartCraft’s Investors Intelligence weekly survey of newsletter editors showed a decrease in optimism for the first time since the start of this rally. The bullish side fell 4.1% points to 39.1% while the bears came in at 34.5% - almost unchanged from last week.

The AAII weekly survey of retail investor sentiment shows a similar picture. There was a 3% point increase in the pessimist camp with the bears at 39%. Meanwhile the bullish camp fell significantly - 12% points - from last week to 32%.

Option Sentiment
While it spent the whole week lower, the ISE Sentiment index jumped to 171 (equities only). This means that the retail trader bought 171 calls to open compared to 100 puts. While it is just one day’s data, it definitely shows that optimism is easily stoked.

In contrast, the short term moving average of the CBOE (equity only) put call ratio is still quite low, corresponding to market tops. If we adjust for the upward sloping range of the data we find it at a similar level to October 2007:

cboe put call ratio equity only Apr 2009 moving average

Insider Activity
The similarities to October 2007 just keep coming. From the Nasdaq Bullish Percent Index, to the above mentioned put call ratio. Now insiders are getting in on the act. According to Washington Services, that tracks such activity, corporate insiders are taking advantage of this rally to cash in. For the 3 weeks so far in April, insiders have sold $8.32 for every $1 they have bought of their company’s shares. The last time they were in a similar dash to sell was (you guessed it) October 2007.

What is even more alarming is that we are seeing the lowest amount of outright buying from insiders for the past 17 years. Since insiders are considered the “smart” players in the market, they obviously wouldn’t act this way if they believed that the worst was behind us.

Magazine Cover
economist cover glimmer of hopeThe Economist’s cover for this week asks: “A Glimmer of Hope?”. While acknowledging the mood of acquiescence to the ‘recovery’, it outlines the disadvantage in believing that everything is fine now: The world economy and the perils of optimism:

“Welcome to an era of diminished expectations and continuing dangers; a world where policymakers must steer between the imminent threat of deflation while countering investors’ (reasonable) fears that swelling public debts and massive monetary easing could eventually lead to high inflation; an uncharted world where government borrowing reaches a scale not seen since the second world war, when capital controls ensured that savings stayed at home.”

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